Euroleague Prospect Preview

by Jeff Fox

Another season of Euroleague basketball kicks off Monday with a game in Vitoria, Spain between Tau Ceramica and Fenerbahce Ulker. The league continues to host the best basketball on the planet outside of the NBA, and some high-profile signings this offseason solidified that.

While the league is mostly the strict domain of veteran players, every year participating team’s rosters are dotted with potential NBA draft picks. There aren’t too many prospects playing in the league this year, but it is a case of quality over quantity. There are a couple big name prospects playing who shouldn’t have to wait long at next year’s draft to hear David Stern announce their name.

Here are some of the notable draft prospects Draft 365 will be keep its eyes on this season in the Euroleague:

Ricky Rubio — DKV Joventut (Spain)

One of the early favorites to get drafted first overall next June is the dynamic young Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio. His performance is this year’s Olympics bolstered his draft stock but, unfortunately, it also has caused him a setback. Rubio injured his hand versus the U.S. in the gold medal game, and when it still wasn’t healing properly earlier this month he underwent surgery on his wrist to repair a damaged ligament. He looks to be out of action until late November.

Brandon Jennings — Lottomatica Roma (Italy)

With a previous Draft 365 column devoted solely to Brandon Jennings, no need to go too in-depth on the So Cal kid. If his first few games in the Italian league are any indication, it appears the team is bringing him along slowly. His early averages — 17.5 mpg, 5.0 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 1.5 apg. Still, look for him to be a Top 10 pick next June.

Omri Casspi — Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv (Israel)

There is a bit of a drop-off in talent after the top two names on this list. Probably the next best draft prospect competing in the league is Israeli Omri Casspi. A 20-year-old 6-9 small forward, Casspi is an aggressive (some would say cocky) player. He didn’t always get consistent minutes last year for Maccabi, causing fights between his family and the team. Assuming he is in the regular rotation this season, he should benefit from being fed the ball from a world class point guard in new teammate Carlos Arroyo.

Alexey Shved — CSKA Moscow (Russia)

Despite being buried behind more talented, experienced teammates, 6-6 Russian combo guard Alexey Shved is still considered a potential lottery pick (probably not until 2010 though). While not getting much of a chance to show his stuff for CSKA (he only played seven minutes in the team’s opening game in the Russian league), he dominated for Russian in this past summer’s Under-20 European Championships, averaging about 19 points, three boards and three assists per game.

Other prospects:

Henk Norel — DKV Joventut (Spain) — projected as an early second round pick.

Artem Zabelin — CSKA Moscow (Russia) — early second round pick, 2010.

Tomislav Zubcic — Cibona (Croatia) — lottery pick, 2010.

Not only do these young prospects get to go up against some of the top competition in the world, they also get to hone their skills against players who have NBA experience. The number of former NBA players playing in the Euroleague this season total in the double digits, but here’s a list of some of the notable ones:

Carlos Arroyo — Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv (Israel)
Primoz Brezec — Lottomatica Roma (Italy)
Josh Childress — Olympiacos (Greece)
Gordan Giricek — Fenerbahce Ulker (Turkey)
Sarunas Jasikevicius — Panathinaikos Athens (Greece)
Trajan Langdon — CSKA Moscow (Russia)
Juan Carlos Navarro — Regal FC Barcelona (Spain)